Posts Tagged ‘slasher films’

During the slasher craze of the 1980s and 1990s, Tony Todd’s Candyman was a killer who brought a gravitas, elegance and a deeper origin story to his gruesome work. It’s a shame that he only got three films (and from what I hear, I didn’t miss much not seeing the sequels), because he’s become such a beloved character. So when word got out that Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Production company was making what was basically a soft reboot, people were both curious, excited, and more than a little worried.

I saw the film last night and wanted to share my thoughts as soon as possible. But I was tired when I got home last night, so I held off until I had the energy to do so. And folks, I can tell you now that the Candyman still slays like he used to.

And yes, Tony Todd’s Candyman is in this movie. In case you were worried.

Serving as a direct sequel to the original movie (a la 2018’s Halloween), Candyman follows Anthony McCoy, a Chicago artist who hears a version of the events from the first film from his girlfriend’s brother. Interested, he heads to Cabrini-Green to learn more, and there discovers the story of the Candyman. What seems at first to be a simple urban legend turns out to be so much more. And Anthony finding the legend is more than just coincidence. It may even be considered destiny.

First off, I enjoyed the kills in this film. We mostly see the Candyman in reflections from mirrors and windows, which allows for some scary moments and some creative kills (*cough* art critic’s apartment *cough*). I also enjoyed how they re-approached the myth of the Candyman, changing it so that multiple people have taken on the mantle of Candyman so that every generation can recontextualize the myth and have a killer for the age. And the story is very well-written, balancing horror, elements of destiny and the cycle of history with social commentary (mostly race and gentrification).

Also, I love how flashbacks and storytelling is mixed between people talking, shadow puppetry, and flashbacks. It makes for some great visuals.

I did find some elements of the film predictable, however. I guessed one element of the film way early just from some slight foreshadowing, and was right! And there are some moments of info-dumping that I thought could have been done slightly better.

All told, I’m giving 2021’s Candyman a 4.4 out of 5. It’s a visceral, well-done story that brings Candyman back into the spotlight where he should be. And, if it does well, I can see this film being the launching point for numerous sequels and prequels around the new aspects of the mythology.* Grab a ticket, say his name five times in the mirror, and get ready for a bloody good time.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll likely be taking a break from reviews for a couple of weeks to focus on some reflection/writing posts and my own editing. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

*And before that, I need to rewatch the original and watch the sequels. I can’t believe how many things I forgot from the first film! I need to remedy that and watch the sequels, even if they aren’t that amazing. Maybe I’ll start on that tonight.

Remember Five Nights at Freddy’s? Well, if you don’t, Five Night’s at Freddy’s, or FNAF for short, is a video game franchise that was pretty popular in the mid-2010’s. The games revolve around surviving the night, usually at a haunted Chuck E. Cheese knockoff, while fending off killer animatronics. The unique and simple gameplay, combined with the dense lore revealed in the games, made it pretty popular for a while. There have even been in-universe novels (all of which I reviewed) and a movie has been in development hell since 2015.

And in the meantime, a couple of other films have been released that use the same concept but are just different enough to avoid IP problems. Thus, we get Willy’s Wonderland, which fills the gap for animatronic carnage horror films FNAF leaves quite well.

Starring (and produced by) Nicholas Cage, the film follows Cage as a mysterious drifter who gets stuck in the tiny town of Hayesville after a car accident. To pay for repairs, he accepts an overnight cleaning job at Willy’s Wonderland, an abandoned family entertainment center complete with giant, creepy electronics and a bloody history. What he’s not told is that the animatronics are alive and murderous. Thus begins a standoff between the eight deadly robots and the drifter. One that will be more explosive than anyone expects.

I’ll say this, these new slasher horror-comedies can be quite surprising. And if films like Happy Death Day, Freaky, and Willy’s Wonderland are the beginning of a new trend in horror, I hope it doesn’t get old too fast.

This film is a bonkers fun time! I think my favorite part is Cage’s unnamed character, who’s kind of a riff on Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name. He’s always got this sour look on his face, and his silence, addiction to energy soda, and routine make him nigh inscrutable. I also enjoyed the animatronics, which were visually interesting, moved well and were in the right area of the uncanny valley to be both funny and creepy. Add in some stellar action scenes and a good balance between the humor and horror elements and you have a really fun time.

I do have some complaints, however. For one thing, some of the slasher tropes felt kind of shoehorned in because they were expected. You would think this long after the slasher boom, even fictional teens would know not to do some of that dumb shit in a situation right out of a horror film. Speaking of which, several of the teen characters are not at all interesting or sympathetic. Honestly, one or two came off as detestable. Which might have been the point, given which tropes they engaged in, but I really could have done without that aspect of the film.

All in all, though, Willy’s Wonderland is a fun, bloody good time that will leave you amused and wanting more. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give it an even 4. A sequel or prequel is supposedly in the works, and I would love that. You could have a whole trilogy around Cage’s character getting into horror movie shenanigans. It would be hilarious and you could come up with so many inventive ways for him to get into scrapes with monsters or bad guys.

And in the meantime, if you want some FNAF movie goodness and can’t wait for that film to be made,* go check out Willy’s Wonderland.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope the next post isn’t a review (though I guarantee nothing). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

*Assuming it gets made. Supposedly a script was approved and filming was supposed to begin this spring, but nothing happened and we haven’t had any updates in a while. Between that and the franchise having passed peak popularity, I feel like even if the film gets made, it’s going to face the same issues Slender Man’s film did. Namely that it was too late and there wasn’t enough interest, to say nothing of the quality (see my scathing review here).

As promised, Netflix dropped the second entry in their horror film trilogy based on the books by RL Stine (see here for my review of the first movie). And while I’m getting to it later than I did last week (hey, I wanted to see a Marvel movie in the theater for the first time in a year), I’m here to report on the film and what I thought about it.

I’m also here to report that in 1978, my parents were in their teens, and I was influencing this Earth from another world. God, I was busy that year. So much chaos to sow!

Starting off almost immediately after the end of the first film, 1978 finds the survivors of the most recent massacre locating the only survivor of the 1978 Camp Nightwing massacre. We are then sent back to summer 1978, where campers and staff from Shadyside have an uneasy relationship with the campers and counselors from Sunnyvale. And while that would normally be bad enough, the curse of Sarah Fier awakens to wreak more havoc on the camp. But while that happens, terrible secrets will be uncovered. Ones that will affect the course of history up to the (film trilogy’s) present day.

Gotta say, I’m more disturbed by how awful the Sunnyvalers are to the Shadysiders than anything in the film. Seriously, I know these kids are rich and used to having their way, but some of these kids are freaking psychopathic! Also, why are there no adults? Only counselors and staff in their twenties! Except for counselors, most of the staff at my camp were in their thirties or older. And we never had any murders!

That aside though, this was a fun sequel and a fun slasher. It takes a lot of cues from the early Friday the 13th films and Sleepaway Camp. The storytelling is pretty tight, with more emphasis placed on the character development and interplay, as well as developments in the plot, than on gore and horror. Actually, the gore and horror is mostly held back, but that seems to benefit the film. This film knows that its strengths are in the characters, so it uses horror to move their dynamics along.

And speaking of characters, the actors do a good job in their roles. Sadie Sink of Stranger Things fame plays Ziggy with the same great attitude she brings to her character Max, along with a great side of being hurt by life and the people around her. As for the other actors, you really believe that they’re these characters. It helps that a lot of the campers are actually played by teens and preteens, which brings a sense of realism to the story. And when they interact with each other, you really feel the love, animosity, and other emotions/prejudices in these characters.

That being said, it’s not very scary. At least, not for experienced horror fans. Yeah, there’s blood and murder and the undead, but no atmosphere or suspense to really terrify you. Someone who faints at the sight of blood might get scared, but not someone whose seen a lot scarier stuff.

Still, this is a fun horror movie and much better than I thought it would be. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Fear Street Part Two: 1978 an even 4. Same as the first film. If you watched the first film and was worried about the second, I can at least assure you it won’t be time wasted. I’m looking forward to seeing the third film and how they wrap things up. It appears they’re going to do an American Horror Story and use most of the actors from the first two films in new roles. I wonder if that will be significant.


Another reminder, my Followers of Fear: there’s only 18 days left to take part in the ten-year blogging anniversary Ask Me Anything, or AMA. Just send me a question with where you’re from by 11:59 PM on July 28th, 2021. If you do, you’ll be entered for a prize. All questions should be sent to my email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. I look forward to reading your questions and answering them.

Unless I don’t get enough questions. In which case, forget it.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and disco music is dead. Let’s keep it that way.

June has always been a special month for me. For one thing, it’s the month I was born. But not only that, I have a lot of publishing anniversaries during this month, and this is a lucky anniversary. On this day, seven years ago, Snake was published.

So if you’re not familiar, Snake is my second published novel and third self-published book. The novel follows a young man who descends into madness when a powerful Mafia family takes something important to him. He becomes a serial killer, desperate to get back what he desires most. Even if that means becoming a monster worse than the ones he’s hunting. It’s kind of like the movie Taken meets a slasher movie.

I had a lot of fun writing this novel in college. Along with Taken, it was heavily influenced by slasher movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th, James Patterson’s Alex Cross novels, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit reruns. I got to tell a really long story, with lots of violence, action, and a complex character whom audiences found themselves rooting for despite the fact that, you know, he’s a serial killer.

And apparently readers agreed. Here’s what some of them had to say:

This book is another awesome creation by Rami. This book is scary and brings the reader to the depths of how evil the human character can be and how anyone can be driven to commit acts of torture. The author does a wonderful job of developing the plot and characters and there are certainly twists and turns. I highly recommend reading this book if you love a good frightening thrill.

ENJ, Amazon

Rami Ungar makes a promise to (the reader) in all his writings: he WILL scare you, and if he does “his job is done.” Snake will scare you. I am a huge Stephen King fan, so this should give you some idea of my tolerance level for gore, death and mayhem – I was scared. Rami takes you into places you would never have believed possible, and manages to pull his hero (and eventually his heroine) out of them against all odds. If you like to be scared. If you LOVE to be scared. You should read this book.

Angela Misri, author of the Portia Adams novels and other books

Riveting story and great characters. I loved this book from front to back.

Leon Sluijter
If you end up getting a copy, please also post a photo. I love seeing people enjoying their print editions of my books.

That last one was actually from Germany. This books has international fans!

And did I mention at ParaPsyCon that this novel was really popular? It was actually my top sellers, more than Rose even! People were drawn in by the cover and then drawn in by the story. I guess a lot of people like serial killer stories.

Despite that, it’s not gotten as many readers or reviews as Rose, so I’m working hard to get more people interested. And that’s part of why I’m posting the anniversary. If this gets people interested in the book, even just a bit, I’ll be happy.

And if you like what you’re reading in this blog post, please consider checking out the novel using the links below. And if you like what you read, please let me know somehow. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and it helps me, as well as other readers, out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m having a four-day weekend, so I’ll be out celebrating my freedom and life and Snake. Until next time, don’t get into strange cabs at night after receiving mysterious phone calls and pleasant nightmares!

Snake: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Me and my roommate Jonesy in my old apartment.

Funny story: earlier this week, I found out I lost some weight, even though I hadn’t expected it (if anything, I thought I gained). I’m talking to my dad about it and say, “I’ve no idea what happened. I’ll have to watch my weight carefully for a while. Make sure I’m not going through something like out of Stephen King’s Thinner.”

My dad has never read a Stephen King novel in his life. His response was, “…okay.”

Me: “Trust me, it did not end well for the guy suddenly losing weight in that book.”

And if you count that as a spoiler, remember that book is nine years older than me. What were you doing these past thirty-seven years?

Okay, onto the meat of this post. The audience on this blog has been growing by leaps and bound lately. So first off, hi everyone. Thank you for joining the Followers of Fear. We don’t (normally) sacrifice members and there are hidden benefits to joining. Namely you’ll likely survive when I start the Apocalypse. Maybe.

Second, since there are so many of you, I thought you should know something about me and my works. First off, me: I’m a novelist from Ohio specializing in horror and dark fantasy. I like reading and writing, anime and horror movies, and being an unabashed eccentric. I also have three books and a short story on e-book available right now, so if you don’t mind (and if it doesn’t make you want to unfollow me), I’d like to tell you about those books. You know, in case you’re interested.

I won’t mention the e-book, though. I did that last post.

The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones

In his publishing debut, Rami Ungar brings us five terrifying stories of darkness in magic. You can experience the strange visions of a man battling sex addiction in “Addict”. Or feel the wrath of an enraged dybbuk in “Samson Weiss’s Curse”. Face your fears in Gene Adkin’s Murder House in “I’m Going To Be The Next James Bond” and then journey with a young autistic “In The Lady Ogre’s Den”. But most of all, prepare to play the most insidious game of all: The Quiet Game.

My second foray into self-publishing. While a lot of these stories aren’t as scary or as well-polished as some of my later work, I think they’re still enjoyable to a degree. Plus, I had a lot of fun writing these stories. Give it a shot if you’re interested.

Available on Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Snake

How far will you go for love and revenge? When a young man’s girlfriend is kidnapped by the powerful Camerlengo Family, he becomes the Snake, a serial killer who takes his methods from the worst of the Russian mafia. Tracking down members of the Camerlengo Family one by one for clues, the Snake will go to any lengths to see the love of his life again…even if it means becoming a worse monster than any of the monsters he is hunting.

A homage to my burgeoning love to slashers, too many James Patterson novels, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, this was another one I had fun with. It’s also, too date, my longest book, over 100,00 words! And yet, people still find it a quick read. Must be the fast pace. Anyway, check it out if you like unusual tales about serial killers in your diet.

Available on AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Rose

Rose Taggert awakens in a greenhouse with no clear memory of the past two years and, to her horror, finds her body transformed into an unrecognizable form.
Paris Kuyper has convinced Rose that they are lovers, and as Paris could not bear for her to die, he has used an ancient and dark magic to save her from certain death.
But the dark magic Paris has used comes at a price. A price which a terrible demon is determined to extract from Rose.
As Rose struggles to understand what is happening to her, she must navigate Paris’s lies and secrets; secrets that Paris will do anything to protect.

I wrote this novel back in my last year of college as my thesis. It took five years, and more rewrites than I care to remember, but the novel was accepted by Castrum Press, my first novel with a publisher (and hopefully not the last). And you know what? Nearly two years later, it only just got its first one-star review! Yeah, that’s a record (and something I hold as a badge of pride). I think that makes it worth a try, don’t you?

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible


So, those are my published works. And I hope to follow them up with plenty more. And while I work on those, I hope you’ll consider not only checking out these stories, but letting me know what you think once you’ve read them. I love getting reader feedback, no matter what that feedback is, and it helps me out in the long run.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m off to get a lot of sleep. Followers of Fear, stay safe, have a great weekend, and pleasant nightmares!

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this film. It’s from the same director as the Happy Death Day films and has a talented cast. Plus, the trailer looked great. Even my dad, who is never interested in horror that I haven’t personally written, was interested in it! So, while the theaters are still open, I went to go and see it.

A horror-comedy mashup of Freaky Friday and the Friday the 13th films, Freaky follows Millie Kessler, a quiet teenage girl whose life was already difficult. But then the Blissfield Butcher, a local serial killer, goes after her. What happens next causes Millie to magically switch bodies with the Butcher. So now, while stuck in the body of a middle-aged murderer, she must figure out a way to get her body back before the Butcher uses it to massacre everyone she knows and loves.

This film is bloody bonkers fun!

I think the film’s strongest point are its main players. Vince Vaughn has a history with comedies, and he does a great job pretending to be teenage girl stuck in the body of a serial killer. It’s crazy how believable he is! Kathryn Newton, who’s had roles in Supernatural and Detective Pikachu, is essentially playing three different girls: shy girl, serial killer pretending to be a shy girl, and badass girl. It’s really cool to see her with that range.

In fact, the whole cast is great. They all have a great chemistry and even the least developed characters are quite likable thanks to their actors. Though I enjoyed seeing some of the assholes get their just desserts.

And from that, let’s move onto the horror. Well, I wasn’t exactly terrified. There’s not much atmosphere, and most of the scares come from jumpscares. That being said, there are quite a few inventive kills that I liked, and the more slasher-y bits of the film were a lot of fun. And in the slasher genre, if you can’t be scary, then being fun is a good second.

As for the comedy, it was kind of hit-or-miss. Most of the misses came from swearing and dirty humor, which I’ve come to think of as scraping the bottom of the barrel. “Ooh, we’re saying bad words and making references to a natural part of the human experience that society gets really uptight about! We’re so funny and edgy!”

Moments like this, where Vaughn makes the most of the premise, are where the humor shines.

The really funny parts come from Vince Vaughn making the most of his character’s situation. The theater was in hysterics whenever Vaughn was commenting on the oddities of being a man, or getting into situations where, out of context, would look totally crazy. There’s a scene involving Vaughn and the love interest in the back of the car that had me laughing so hard, my glasses fogged up (I was wearing a mask)!

Of course, Freaky isn’t perfect. As I said, the film has some misses in the humor department. Also, the method by which the characters magically switch bodies is oddly specific and leaves a lot of questions. Maybe they’re planning on answering those in a theoretical sequel (because of course that’s always a consideration with movies these days), but with just one film, it makes me raise an eyebrow.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Freaky a 4.5. It’s a fun slasher film that makes the most out of its concept and has some good laughs. Even those who don’t like horror-comedies or horror in general should enjoy themselves.

Speaking of which, Abba: if you go see this film, give me a call afterwards and let me know what you think. I’m very curious to hear what you think.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to sleep and then work on my various projects. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Cover of the first Hellraiser film.

If you’re not familiar with the Hellraiser series, let me start with a bit of background. Based on the novella The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker,* the films follow a magical puzzle box which, when solved, open a gateway to a hell dimension inhabited by creatures known as Cenobites. Anyone who comes into contact with the Cenobites is then pulled into their world, where the boundaries between pain and pleasure are explored until they all blend into suffering. All the films in the series follow people who come into contact with the puzzle box, with the fourth film exploring the puzzle box’s creation and history, though only the first four were released theatrically.

I saw the first three films years and years ago, but was recently spurred by a colleague rewatching some of the films to revisit them and finally watch the fourth one. And I have some thoughts on the series.

For one thing, I get the appeal of the series, which first released in the 1980s during the height of the slasher boom. However, unlike other slashers of the time, which focused either on silent killers like Jason or Michael Myers, or funny, over-the-top characters like Freddy Kreuger, the Hellraiser films were outliers. The monsters of those films weren’t silent stalkers or wise-cracking undead. They were more like scientists of sensuality and suffering rather than killers. Death was just sometimes part of their work (at least for the first couple of films). In fact, in the first few films, the lead Cenobite Pinhead, nearly always played by Doug Bradley, is articulate, intelligent, and dispassionate except when speaking of his work.

In addition, the first two films don’t follow a regular slasher structure. Instead, the focus shifts around to various characters and their motivations, making the films feel almost like novels in how their stories are told. And the first two films also have a surreal aspect to them, especially the second one, which adds to the feeling of horror and unreality that the films are going for.

And finally, the films weren’t focused on gory deaths. They focused instead on desire, on what made people do horrible things in exchange for their wants and needs, even if those wants and needs included horrific sadomasochistic experiments. If that sometimes led to death, then so be it.

Pinhead, leader of the Cenobites and the most prominent character in the series.

Given all that, I can see why the films were popular and have stuck around. That being said, I can see how the series fell in quality as early as the third film. While that one was good, it structured its story in the vein of a more traditional, good-vs-evil supernatural slasher. It also eschewed the more weird aspects and added in some campier aspects with some of the new Cenobites. And then the fourth film, while giving a history to the puzzle box and an “ending” for the series, sacrifices quality and scares in the process.

It’s really no wonder the series went to direct-to-video from there on out, or why the subsequent films have tried for a more psychological approach rather than an out-and-out gory supernatural style.**

Despite all that, the first two films, while they have their issues, are still masterpieces and the third film is worth a watch (though I would stop after that). And, like all good slashers, the very concept is powerful enough to make you want to see more. to explore more from the safety of your living room. It’s why the series has endured, and why a reboot and a TV series are both in development (though we may not see anything new for a long, long time).

And if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t mind a reboot. This series has gone through so many ups and downs, a fresh take done with love for the original concept might just be what the series needs. And if one does get made, I hope antagonist Julia would be given a bigger role. She was such a powerful character in the first two films that at one point, it was considered giving her the role of main antagonist over Pinhead, and I think the character’s exploration of her own darkness and sexual desires would go over well with modern audiences.

And if you’re interested in checking out the Hellraiser films after this post, here’s where I’d rate them on a scale of 1 to 5:

Any other Julia fans out there?

  • Hellraiser – 4.3
  • Hellbound: Hellraiser II – 4.5
  • Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth – 3.9
  • Hellraiser: Bloodline – 2.6

But tell me, what are your thoughts on the Hellraiser franchise and my observations? Do you support a remake? And is there anyone else here who thinks Julia is much more terrifying than Pinhead? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll likely have a new review out soon, so keep an eye out for that. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

*Which I really need to get around to reading one of these days.

**Or so I’ve read. I have not seen anything past #4 yet, and I’m not sure I want to.

For those of you who are unaware, Slasher is a Canadian-American TV series that’s like American Horror Story, with a different story and cast every season, but more bent towards slasher horror. I’ve reviewed the first two seasons (see my reviews here and here), and have enjoyed watching the evolution of the show from a so-so derivative AHS knock-off to a very thrilling and bloody murder mystery in the second season. And while it took me a while to get to it, I finally got around to the third and final season. And what a season it was!

Subtitled Solstice, the story begins with the murder of Kit Jennings, a bisexual party boy who is violently murdered at his apartment building by a masked murderer known as the Druid. A year later, all the residents living at the apartment building at the time of the murder are still living there, and start to die under horrific and bloody circumstances. As the police rush to find the returned Druid killer, the apartment residents will have to watch their backs. Because everyone has a connection to Kit, everyone has a secret, and everyone is a target.

I don’t know if the third season was intended to be the final season, but in a way, I’m glad it was. There’s no way they were going to top this season.

For one thing, I love how they manage to take these diverse characters, flesh them out to make them feel real, and then weave a narrative around them. It could have easily come across as hard-to-believe, or silly, or dumb, but the writers made it believable and truly thought out every aspect of the story to make it thrilling. I also like how the emphasis on this season was on connections and community. There’s a lot of commentary on how people are united and divided in a community, both online and offline, people can be. You have white supremacists living next to Muslims, straight couples living by LGBT families, caring people living beside monsters. All that gels together in a way that feels organic and believable, and I loved it.

And speaking of the cast, I don’t think I’ve ever found a horror story where I wanted so many despicable characters to get murdered! The white supremacist; the white supremacist’s prejudiced, slutty daughter; the housewife who believes sharing everyone’s pain across her gossip vlog is real journalism;* the creepy teenager who thinks bringing up people’s trauma is funny. Each one of them is written and played so well, and I only hope I can portray such characters so well in my own work.

Finally, this season contains some of the most brutal kills in a slasher story I’ve ever seen. Kid you not, I cringed more than I normally do with these kinds of stories, and that’s saying something. If you decide to check this season out, be prepared. This season goes the limits.

If there’s something I didn’t care for, I would’ve liked to see more of protagonist’s, Saadia Jalalzai’s,** parents and family. They leave for a trip at the beginning of episode one and then are pretty much gone from the season. I honestly would have enjoyed seeing a bit more of them and their reactions to everything that occurred within the course of the season.

All in all though, Slasher‘s third season is a gory, terrifying delight for any slasher fan. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the season a 4.7. Get on Netflix, settle in for eight episodes and, if you live in an apartment building, thank whoever that even your worse neighbors probably aren’t as bad as the ones in this show.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I wanted to get one more blog post out before I left on my trip tomorrow, and I’m glad it was this one. Don’t know when my next one will be, but I’m sure whenever it is, it’ll be the first of several. And in the meantime, if you’re in Des Moines this weekend, come by the Valley West Mall for the 5th annual Indie Author Book Expo. I’ll be selling books and doing Tarot, so I hope to see you there!

Until next time, stay safe, beware of machete-wielding maniacs, and pleasant nightmares.

*BTW, if I ever get as addicted to my online following as that woman or some of the other characters in that show, please break my phone and slap me silly. I’ll need it.

**And yes, I was reminded a bit of my character from the Reborn City series, Zahara Bakur, but I’m pretty sure they just share an archetype.

So the other night on Twitter, I see Richard Chizmar (you know, that author/publisher I interviewed a while back?) tweet about this movie, The House of the Devil, saying he had to stop watching it thirty minutes in and could only finish it by the light of day. Obviously, I’m intrigued, so I went and reserved a copy from the library. And I finished it in one sitting after dark, so I think I can brag about that? Wait, I live in an apartment with noises, and part of the reason Mr. Chizmar couldn’t finish it was because he was watching the film in a dark, quiet house. Obviously, there’s a difference.

Anyway, on with the review!

Set in the 1980s and “based on true events,” The House of the Devil follows Samantha, a college student struggling to make ends meet. In desperation, she answers a babysitting ad she finds on campus and takes it. However, things get weird when she gets to the house. And once she’s alone with her charge, she learns that there’s more afoot than meets the eye.

Ladies and gentlemen, I may have a new favorite horror film!

So first off, this really does feel like a horror film from the late 70s/early 80s. In addition to the normal signs of a 1980s-set story (teased hair, Walkmans, and music from the best era for music ever, etc.), the movie was filmed with 16mm film, giving it that slightly filtered quality we know and feel so nostalgic about. Add in some yellow credits and some pauses during opening credits, and I could almost believe this film was made over thirty years ago rather than just eleven years ago.

I also love how this film builds tension. I know I use the term “slow burn” quite a bit, but it fits here. Director Ti West takes his time laying the groundwork and establishing our main character Samantha (wonderfully played by Jocelin Donahue, who embodies natural 80s beauty as much as Natalia Dyer in Stranger Things). Once we get to the house, things switch to showing Samantha’s increasing unease and paranoia. The camera work in these scenes is great, showing the heroine exploring the house multiple times, as if she’s not sure she’s really alone, while at the same time the camera films things in a voyeuristic way, like we’re the ones stalking Samantha, allowing us to share in her unease.

And that final third! Whoo-boy, things go zero-to-sixty real quick, and it is scary and thrilling to watch. I also like seeing how Samantha strikes a great balance between terrified final girl and willing to fight back. Usually in these films it’s either they’re screaming their heads off or they’re angry vengeance personified, so it’s a nice change to see a compromise.

As far as problems go, this film might be a bit too slow and quiet at times for some viewers. If you prefer your horror film have faster paces or not so many quiet points where characters just talk, this may not be the film for you. Also, there are some flashing imagery at the beginning of the final third that might trigger people with photosensitivity. It’s not as bad as IT: Chapter Two was, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

All in all, The House of the Devil is a wonderful homage to the slasher and suspense-horror films of the 70s and 80s. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.8. Settle into the couch, order a pizza and prepare for one of the best horror films you haven’t heard of. You won’t regret it.

Unless you have nightmares. In which case you may regret it.

As many of you know and as the below video demonstrates, I’m a huge Friday the 13th fan.

Yes, that was me with my Jason Voorhees hockey mask. Shouldn’t surprise any of you that I have that.

And as many of you know, I HATE the remake that came out nine years ago. Seriously, what was that film? It was like the director and writer started making a porno because they hadn’t gotten any action lately, added a bunch of swearing and dirty humor to hide it as a raunchy comedy, and then added Jason just because they couldn’t get studio support for the comedy. But what do you expect, when Michael Bay is producing?

Obviously, I would like for a better Friday the 13th film to come out. So I was intrigued when a friend told me about Never Hike Alone, a Friday the 13th fan film that has gotten some good press. And with the day off from work (we’re observing Veteran’s Day today), I decided to watch it and see if it was as good as said.*

Holy shit, why haven’t I heard of this before? That was great!

Never Hike Alone follows Kyle McCloud, a vlogger who records his hikes on his GoPro and then uploads it to YouTube. He goes hiking in the Catskills and comes across Camp Crystal Lake, abandoned and dilapidated due to years of neglect. Exploring the ruins of the camp, Kyle expects only to find some pieces of history that have expanded into a famous ghost story. What he ends up finding is that some legends are very grounded in reality. Especially when they involve Camp Crystal Lake.

First off, I love how much this looks like a professional production from a major studio. From the camera work to the buildings around Camp Crystal Lake, it’s so well done. I also thought the storytelling in this film was par excellence. Using a minimalist approach to focus exclusively on Kyle’s experience, it creates this suspenseful cat-and-mouse mood. For the first half of the film, you’re on the edge of your seat, expecting Jason to appear in frame at any moment. When he finally does make a move, the film smoothly transitions to this thrill-fest as Kyle tries to survive Jason. And while there is plenty of violence, it’s never overly sensational or stupid, but just enough to give the necessary scare. There’s also only a little swearing, and absolutely no sexual or drug content, which I was thankful for.

I guess Womp Stomp Films, the studio who produced Never Hike Alone, also took one look at how those elements were misused in the remake, and decided to go the opposite route. Good call.

The only major issue I have was that the last scene, which goes on about seven minutes, could’ve been cut a bit shorter. I mean yeah, there’s a cool little cameo at the end, but other than that I would’ve preferred five minutes of it be cut so that it didn’t drag.

Other than that though, Never Hike Alone is a great tribute to the Friday the 13th franchise and a possible view as to where the series could go in the future. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a well-deserved 4.5. Atmospheric and suspenseful, you’ll find this satisfies you until we get an actual good film from the franchise, should that ever happen.**

If you’re still unsure, take a look at the trailer below before going to check out the full film on YouTube. Trust me, it’s an hour well-spent.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m not sure when I’ll be posting again, but until I do, I wish you all some wonderfully pleasant nightmares.

*I would’ve waited till the next Friday the 13th, but that’s not till September next year, so I’ll have to settle for Monday the 12th.

**And if that ever does happen, with or without Lebron James, I hope they take example from this film on how to make a good Friday the 13th film. And maybe let me help write the new one. I’ve a few ideas on how to bring back my boy Jason, and none of them involves bringing him to Manhattan.